Tina K. Russell

November 29, 2009

The tragic life story

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:15 pm

THE tragic life story of a murdered Kentish Town transsexual became clear this week when it was revealed the victim’s mother had committed suicide four years ago and her uncle spent 15 years in prison falsely convicted of an IRA bombing.

Destiny Lauren, 29, born Justin Samuels, was found dead at around 1am on Thursday November 5, in her flat on Leighton Crescent.

It was almost four years to the day since her mother Elizabeth Hill took her own life outside the same flat.

via Hampstead and Highgate Express – Tragic story of murdered transsexual, whose uncle was one of the Guildford Four.

I’m really impressed with this article. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen an article about the murder of a transsexual that really gave the victim, and the family, a story. For once, we’re not just statistics, we’re individuals.

The ninth paragraph—count it, nine—mentions that she was a sex worker. I was even more impressed after reading that, both because they didn’t choose to make it their lead (“transsexual prostitute murdered in back alley” is the usual angle, which comes with an air of dismissal), and because it’s rare for a transsexual murder victim to get any kind of life story printed, and rarer still if the victim is also a sex worker.

It’s a little chilling that I’m so used to stories of the murders of transgender people that I find myself celebrating one that is well-written. But, such is the reality of our lives. Reductionist, sensationalist stories of transsexuals’ deaths put us in danger by making us seem less than human, reinforcing a belief that discrimination against us is tolerable and our murders inevitable. However, treating these deaths as what they are—promising lives cut short by evil acts—will get people to think twice about mean things they do or say to transgender people, which will help create a climate in which no murder, of anyone, is tolerated.

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November 25, 2009

Pronouns and the brutal power of language

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:05 pm

ROME (Reuters) – A Brazilian transsexual caught up in a scandal which prompted the resignation of a senior Italian politician — the center-left governor of Lazio region, which includes Rome — was found burned to death in his home Friday. Police found a body following a fire in a basement flat in a neighborhood frequented by transsexual prostitutes and court sources said magistrates were treating the death as murder.

Forensic tests were expected to identify the remains as those of a transsexual known only as Brenda, police said.

Brenda and another Brazilian transsexual were at the center of a case involving the blackmail of former Lazio Governor Piero Marrazzo by four police officers who secretly filmed him having sex and taking drugs with one of the transsexuals.

via Transsexual in Italian political scandal murdered | International | Reuters.

Here’s what I wrote to Reuters:

I’m upset that you referred to Brenda, the murdered Brazilian transsexual at the center of an Italian political scandal, using male pronouns (“he” and “his”) rather than the correct female pronouns. It was even more shocking to see such direct insult in an article about how she burned to death in a firebombing.

It’s rather terrifying to the transgender community, worldwide, to imagine that our identities will not be respected even after our deaths. I can only hope that tragedies like this, the sadly regular occurrence of transgender people murdered for being honest about who they are, will serve as a wakeup call about the brutal power of language. Organizations like Reuters set the tone for society with their use of language, and differences like “he” and “she” mean the difference between “normal” and “abnormal” (whether or not someone’s gender is “legitimate”), which can mean the difference between life and death.

The Reuters stylebook (thank you for putting it online!) does not directly address transgender pronouns, but here is the advice of the AP stylebook: “Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.” I hope you will use this wise advice in the future. Thank you!

October 14, 2009

The defense

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:29 pm

The murder case of transsexual Melek K. who was killed in her home in Ankara was continued. The prosecutor claimed to try defendant T.P. under six different charges such as murder, plunder, theft and further allegations.

via English :: Prosecutor Claims 6 Different Charges against Melek K.’s Murder – Bianet.

I have a few things to say after reading the article:

  1. This Turkish news site was funded in part by the Swedish International Development Agency. Cool. (Hooray for Scandinavia!)
  2. It’s sad to see that even in Turkey murderers of transsexual women use the “tranny panic” defense, which is where you say the two of you were about to have sex when you saw her genitals, panicked, and killed her. In the States at least, it often works, as a means to get the jury on your side by playing to their prejudices. The thing is, not only is it bizarre and indefensible (you panicked and killed someone over their genitals?), it’s always a lie. Murderers of transsexuals can and do seek out their victims first.
  3. For the good news, the perp is dead to rights: evidence shows the victim still had her clothes on during the murder. For once, the tranny panic defense won’t work, and let’s hope it never does again.

September 14, 2009

You First. No, You First.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:28 am

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam, the custodian of its two holy mosques, the world’s energy superpower and the de facto leader of the Arab and Muslim worlds — that is why our recognition is greatly prized by Israel. However, for all those same reasons, the kingdom holds itself to higher standards of justice and law. It must therefore refuse to engage Israel until it ends its illegal occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights as well as Shabaa Farms in Lebanon. For Saudis to take steps toward diplomatic normalization before this land is returned to its rightful owners would undermine international law and turn a blind eye to immorality.

via Op-Ed Contributor – Land First, Then Peace – NYTimes.com.

This is a very strange argument when Israel’s excuse for holding up the peace process is that they’re saving diplomatic negotiation as a sort of reward for good behavior, even when their citizens are dying in rocket attacks. Israel and the United States will not engage with Hamas until they renounce violence and recognize Israel, while Hamas is only willing to give Israel a grudging acceptance, and then only if they return the Occupied Territories. If Saudi Arabia joins in this game, it will ensure a kind of reverse Mexican standoff that will ensure nothing gets done, and that Israelis and Palestinians will keep dying in endless conflict merely for dreaming of a homeland of their own.

May 19, 2009

The fantasy approach to gun violence

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:02 am

Fight Drug Cartels, Not Guns, McCain Says – NYTimes.com
The drug war in Mexico should not be used as an excuse to try to restrict American gun rights, Senator John McCain told thousands of people who gathered here for the National Rifle Association’s annual convention.

Mr. McCain, Republican of Arizona, said that the United States needed to do more to crack down on gun smuggling into Mexico, but that such assistance in Mexico’s war against drug cartels did not require restrictions on the gun rights of law-abiding Americans.

“It should be noted that any effort to restrict gun ownership in the U.S. will not stop Mexican cartels from acquiring guns and ammunition from other countries,” Mr. McCain said on Friday. He added that cartels were already getting grenades and other weapons from other countries.

I really hate this argument for two reasons.

  1. Okay, perhaps other countries aren’t doing their part. But, are we doing ours? (And, will we have any right to criticize them if we do not?)
  2. Can anyone say with a straight face that Mexican drug cartels won’t be hurt—massively—by taking away their biggest supply of automatic weapons, which currently flows freely across the border? Doesn’t it make sense to force them to go to smaller, more remote, and less developed locales to fetch their AK-47s? (And if our massive pipeline of guns to Mexican thugs is somehow immaterial in the grand scheme of things, why have their arsenals become more sophisticated since the lapse of the assault weapons ban?)

To think that we can help solve the Mexican cartel crisis by considering only the smuggling of guns (good luck with that border), and not the buying and selling, is pure fantasy. Mexican cops and civilians are dying while we dither.

May 10, 2009

Decisions, incisions

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:35 pm

PrideSource: Austrian court strikes down transsexual surgery law
Austria’s Administrative High Court has struck down a law that blocked recognition of male-to-female transsexuals’ new gender unless an individual’s penis had been removed.

“Mandatory sex-change surgery today is outdated and not scientific state-of-the-art anymore,” the GLBT group Rechtskomitee Lambda said in a statement. “On the contrary, it is understood as a human rights violation.”

Thank youuuuuuu!!

Many people don’t realize that successful transition consists of many steps and options, and it’s the right of the individual to decide where he or she wants to go. Many, if not most, female-to-male transsexuals, for instance, opt not to get genital surgery at all, because the surgery is somewhat more crude at this point than the reverse. Meanwhile, many transsexuals in general envision getting the surgery but realize, after a successful transition of everything but what’s downstairs, they’re perfectly happy in their bodies and don’t feel the need to change their genitals.

Your junk is your business! Don’t let anybody tell you who you are based on what’s in your pants.

(None of this, of course, stops the global news media from freaking out when a transsexual man decides to keep his womb around so that he can give birth, and does it with dignity, but never mind…)

February 27, 2009

Awesome Transsexuals: Audrey Mbugua

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:02 am

In a small world, some things are true no matter where you are. Kenyan human rights activist Audrey Mbugua demonstrates.

allAfrica.com: Kenya: Social Injustice And Transsexual People (Page 1 of 1)
Another minefield in transsexual people’s lives is the issue of discrimination in Kenya’s labour market. Though I have personally been denied job opportunities just because I am a transsexual, I still don’t understand the logic. I hope I am just too daft to get the argument. Here is the argument, and maybe you could help me understand the quantum electrodynamics behind it: ‘You were born a boy and you are now a woman. How could you do that to yourself? Do you actually think God made a mistake in creating you the way he did? In the first place, who do you sleep with? …blah…blah…blah…lots of crap’.

Will somebody please help me understand, because I thought the employee-employer relationship was that of ‘Give me your most productive 40 hours in the week and at the end of the month, I will deposit KSh blahblahblah in your account. Satisfied?’ That’s how I see things and furthermore if you are clean and tidy, does it matter that I look like a woman but I have a penis between my legs?

And she keeps going!

How is my penis supposed to make organisations lose profits? In fact, I am wondering why these morons are not blaming transsexuals with penises for the global financial crisis. A penis on a transsexual people is not a substitute for her brain. Look at the skills he or she possesses, not penises and vaginas. Why don’t you go around the streets of Nairobi, stopping and squatting under women in skirts to see whether there is a shwing shwong up there? Go ahead and feel the crotch of every person you meet to determine whether their genitals and physical presentation are incongruent or not. You could go further and smell the genitals. Your god will add more days to your lives and you will live to blow 1,001 candles.

Don’t annoy transsexual people further by asking them who they have sex with. That is none of your bee’s wax. How would you feel if you accompanied your dad to a bank and the cashier asked him whether he enjoys taking it up his ass or whether he suffers from impotence? Would you nominate the cashier for an Oscar or a Jerk-of-the-year award? Another thing my dearest friends, I have the right to change my sex if am not comfortable with my sex or even for whatever reasons I have. It’s my body and I don’t see how it interferes with your lives. Or, had you expected me to first consult with your church elders before I had a scalpel plunged inside my scrotum? No, maybe you wanted me to accept myself as a man that god created me to be? Why don’t you also tell diabetic people to stop taking insulin shots and accept themselves the way God created them, as diabetics? We hate such stupid and disrespectful questions and you hateful, ignorant and annoying religious nutcases need to reform.

I can’t tell you how vindicated I feel. As a Quaker, I have an innate fondness for Kenya, home to one of the world’s biggest Quaker communities. (Actually, it might be the biggest.) And, as an American, I’m grateful they had the wherewithal to fight for independence, earning it and prompting John F. Kennedy to start a scholarship program to train future Kenyan civil servants, bringing one enterprising Kenyan to a school in Hawaii where he met a kind free spirit from Kansas, a union which produced our current head of state. So, it does make me sad, of course, that such anti-trans prejudice persists in Kenya.

But holy mackarel! This woman can rant! This is exactly how I’ve been feeling all my life. I probably would have put it more politely (and I think she gets overly harsh toward the end of the linked piece), but sometimes you need to be blunt. It’s oddly comforting to know that the same things frustrate transsexual people the world over. And, I have always wondered why people always seem to think my genitals and sex life are critical public information which they have a right to know about. Gaahhh!

February 5, 2009

Family, responsibility, identity, transsexuality

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 2:55 pm

Transsexual Identity Case May Set Back Gay Marriage | News | YLE Uutiset | yle.fi
Wife Refused Consent to Save Family

The case in question was brought to the Court by a married man and father, who became a transsexual. The couple want to retain their married status, so the wife refused to give her official consent.

(Please note: you don’t “become” transsexual, like, ever. It’s something you’re born with. If it were a choice, nobody would want it, ever.)

(Also, note to copyeditors: the adjective is almost always more respectful than the noun. Someone is Jewish, not “a Jew.” Someone is black, not “a black.” I guess this works better in plural (“Jews,” “blacks”), but when talking about an individual, use the adjective whenever possible.)

(Firefox is telling me that “copyeditors” is a typo. I thought that was the right way… hmmm…)

A lower Administrative Court rejected their case, ruling that “in the realm of family law, a marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman.” And so, from the court’s perspective, the local registry office did not violate the constitutional guarantee of equality of the sexes by refusing to change the woman’s gender without her wife’s consent.

The lower court’s ruling, which defined marriage as exclusively a heterosexual right, has put one more legal obstacle in front of activists calling for gender-neutral marriage laws.

The plaintiff argued that the current laws are essentially forcing her to choose between her sexual identity and keeping her family intact.

In addition, she says that her identification papers have caused real problems in security checks, for example, because they no longer reflect her new self.

There are no legal objections to a man undergoing sexual reassignment to become a woman and then marrying a man, for example.

This is a pretty insane ruling. For the record, here in the States, the law in regard to marriage and transsexuality is a surreal patchwork, and if you’re transsexual yourself, whom you can and can’t marry depends on the state you’re in. But I don’t think we have anything like this ruling in Finland, saying that changing your sex requires your spouse’s consent. (?!)

An important thing, I think, to bear in mind is that transgender people do not abandon their family responsibility when they transition. This is a matter of semantics, but it’s typical, in my experience, for trans people with families to retain the family title they had before transitioning, especially fathers who have transitioned to female after having children. This leads to interesting constructions like “she’s my dad” that may confound the unfamiliar, but it’s always said with the greatest respect. I knew a woman who told her adult children, when she transitioned, “I will always be your father, and nothing can change that.” She said it with pride and conviction, and her concept of herself as a father stood hand-in-hand with her concept of herself as a woman.

That said, it’s perfectly legitimate to want people to call you a different family title (“father” to “mother,” “son” to “daughter,” etc., or the other way around) when you transition; it’s a matter of what you’re comfortable with. However, the idea of transsexuality as a threat to the family is utterly at odds with everything I know. You don’t abandon who you are, or your responsibility to those you love; on the contrary, you drop a charade you’ve been performing all your life, and confirm your love of them through honesty and compassion.

January 8, 2009

A surge for every occasion

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 5:34 pm

U.S. Plans Border ‘Surge’ Against Any Drug Wars – NYTimes.com
The soaring level of violence in Mexico resulting from the drug wars there has led the United States to develop plans for a “surge” of civilian and perhaps even military law enforcement should the bloodshed spread across the border, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Wednesday.

Mr. Chertoff said the criminal activity in Mexico, which has caused more than 5,300 deaths in the last year, had long troubled American authorities. But it reached a point last summer, he said, where he ordered specific plans to confront in this country the kind of shootouts and other mayhem that in Mexico have killed members of warring drug cartels, law enforcement officials and bystanders, often not far from the border.

“We completed a contingency plan for border violence, so if we did get a significant spillover, we have a surge — if I may use that word — capability to bring in not only our own assets but even to work with” the Defense Department, Mr. Chertoff said in a telephone interview.

Welcome to a world where absolutely any problem can be solved with a “surge.”

I’ve got an idea. Why not cut off the cartels’ supply lines? It’s a threat to our security that drug cartels in Mexico have become powerful enough to challenge the police force in all-out war. Why not address the fact that 9 out of 10 of their guns come from the United States, thanks to our insanely liberal gun laws? Why not address that assault rifles are not used for self-defense, are not used for hunting, and are instead used to kill Mexican cops in a destabilizing situation that could spill into the United States?

The Long War of Genaro García Luna – NYTimes.com
[Mexican police chief Genaro] García Luna was in Washington to make the rounds of U.S. government agencies and Congressional offices … García Luna met with government officials and diplomats and gave a stilted power-point presentation to policy experts. He seemed more interested in the photographs he had brought, his way of making a blunt point about a touchy aspect of U.S.-Mexican relations: the vast majority of weapons in the cartel’s arsenals (80 to 90 percent, according to the Mexican government’s figures) are purchased in the United States, often at loosely regulated gun shows, and smuggled into Mexico by the same networks that smuggle drugs the opposite direction. García Luna has a hard time concealing his anger about the fact that U.S. laws make it difficult to do much about this “brutal flow” of firepower. “How is it possible,” he asked me, “that a person is allowed to go buy a hundred cuernos de chivo” — AK-47’s — “for himself?” In the United States, he said, “there was a lot of indifference.”

Why not address that this kind of madness might be why people want to leave Mexico for our border so badly?

January 3, 2009

What inclusion really means

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:01 pm

Aleisha Cuff of Vancouver, BC:

A transsexual woman’s perspective
As a transsexual woman myself, especially one who considers herself a feminist, I often feel scrutinized by cisgendered feminists in ways that other women are not.

Trans women are in a tremendously difficult position: if we’re too feminine we’re acting as sexist caricatures, whereas if we’re too masculine that just proves we’re not women in the first place. If we speak up, we’re aggressively grabbing the microphone, and if we don’t we’re supporting the premise that women are meek and submissive.

The most troubling part, though, is that often in the middle of a screed against trans women the ‘trans’ part begins to feel secondary, and the focus of the anger becomes femaleness or femininity itself.

It is of great concern to me, then, and should be of concern to all women that the community in which I have experienced the most anger and bigotry for being a transsexual woman has been the community of cisgendered queer women.

Eventually I found a community of my own, although it was largely made up of people far from Vancouver.

In blogs and on message boards I began to find other trans women who felt like I did, frustrated with being excluded from the community of queer women. It was a place in which I could discover myself and begin to tell my story in ways I could feel proud of, the place I had hoped the LGBT community would be.

I didn’t just find other trans women, I found a host of queers who had become disaffected in one way or another with LGBT.

Most importantly, I found a place where I could meet women and it didn’t matter if I was trans or not, or if they were trans or not, we just got up to what queer women will get up to.

How often we’re seen as desirable is a fairly accurate measure of a community’s relationship with trans people. Inclusion isn’t inclusion if it stops at the bedroom door.

This brings me close to tears. It’s brilliant. I have nothing to add, other than that I’ve lived—and felt—every word.

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